Gypsy caravan

Transport & Vehicles

It is only the last 50 or 60 years that horse power (and to a somewhat smaller extent, oxen) has begun to play an increasingly diminished role as a form of motive power on farms and indeed in many other aspects of our lives and work.

In rural areas in particular, the horse was the engine which powered everything. It ploughed, sowed and harvested, it transported crops and goods and even performed recreational duties for those who were able to afford them.

The range of vehicles which were produced to be hauled by animals was huge. There was a vehicle for every task and some that were manufactured were so specialised as to be fairly unique.

The collection we have here at the Museum covers both of these groups, and included important, everyday work vehicles which were the mainstay of the rural economy, to the rarer examples generally used for more selective occasions.


Transport & Vehicle Collections


Two-wheeled vehicles usually drawn by a single animal and the main work piece of the land. Its size, capacity and versatility made it extremely valuable for moving loads short distances around the farm or to other nearby locations. Their extremely heavy workload meant that they often wore out relatively quickly and so examples do not often occur much greater than 100-150 years old.

The nature of these vehicles also meant that they could be adapted to tip; either by removing the animal and levering the whole thing back, or having a purpose-built body which tipped back independently of the undercarriage. An extremely useful feature for the rapid unloading of the contents.

Groups of items within this subject include:

  • Dung carts
  • Tip carts


Similar in principle to the cart, but with four wheels – two of which are fixed and two which steer on a turntable forecarriage. Similar in principal also in the function they perform; the moving of a variety of loads around the farm or to different locations.

Obvious differences exist in the amounts they can carry which were considerably more than double that of the cart, the fact that they would not tip and so would have to be unloaded in the same fashion that the good were put onto the vehicle, and that teams of animal would often be required to draw the wagon, especially if fully laden.

Wagons show great regional variations, usually in response to the nature of crops and goods handled in that particular area and also the geographic nature of the land; for example softer, more boggy surfaces would tend to require a wagon with wider wheels to provide a bigger ‘footprint’ and so minimise sinking.

Regional characteristics also gave wagons their names, therefore it is common to discuss Sussex Wagons, Kent Wagons, Dorset Wagons and so on.

Groups of items within this subject include:

  • Box wagons
  • Boat wagons

Handcarts & Trolleys

No use of draught animals was necessary with these implements, being as they were for hand use only in a wide variety of contexts around the farm, workplace or market.

Barrows should strictly be labelled ‘wheelbarrows’ a true ‘barrow’ was wheel-less and carried one man at each end. Other, more particular examples with our collection include brick-makers barrows and coppice barrows.

Groups of items within this subject include:

  • Barrows
  • Sack trolleys

Living Vans

As the name implies. these vehicles were used to some extent as a mobile home or shelter. Certainly not in the way that characterises modern caravans, but more in the way of a moving tool shed in which it was possible to shelter or sleep as the need arose.

The most well-known living van from the south east is the Shepherd’s Hut; a wheeled hut which was hauled up onto the Downs during the lambing season and which provided a base from which the shepherd could administer his flock.

These huts have gained dramatically in popularity in recent years, being desirable as a piece of garden furniture, spare home office or indeed a place to sleep and are sourced either from renovated originals or from one of the growing number of companies producing new copies.

These new versions however bear little internal resemblance to the true shepherds hut which was spartan in the extreme. It was a thing of necessity; a shelf or two to hold materials and medicines for the sheep, a small stove for heating, cooking and preparing some of the ministrations and perhaps some filled sacks for the shepherds bedding.

Externally, shepherds huts were usually either timber clad, or more often covered in corrugated iron, with curved roofs; a door at the rear of the vehicle and one tiny window at the front.

Many other, similar vehicles were manufactured which were defined more by their end use than their differing construction; contractors vans and road menders vans, on the face of it look identical to a shepherds hut, but their contents and purpose differ markedly.

We do have one living van at the museum which is extremely different from the shepherds and contractors huts and that is a late 19th century Reading-style Gypsy caravan, which we have conserved.

Groups of items within this subject include:

  • Living vans
  • Road menders hut, contractors vans, Reading-style Gypsy caravan
  • Shepherd’s huts

Other Wheeled Transport

We are fortunate to have a number of quite unusual and rare items which have been donated from various sources.

Items within this subject include:

Water Carriers

Two wheeled drums to haul water, usually for animals or charcoal burning.

Timber Carriage

A four wheeled, low slung vehicle which is extendible and so able to accommodate felled trees of differing lengths.

Cattle Wagon

A purpose-built, enclosed vehicle used to transport two cattle to agricultural shows. Manufactured by Horder & Sons of Loxwood.

Strawberry Wagon

A light, sprung wagon used in the Hampshire strawberry fields to transport the crop to market. Built by Hayter of Porchester in c.1910.

Removal Wagon

A flat-bed wagon with removable container, donated by, and fitted out with the Reynolds Company livery from Bognor Regis. They were used to transport general goods in a dry environment and in this particular case furniture. The container could be removed from the flat-bed wagon and moved to a barge or railway wagon.

Photo Gallery


1. Cart, 2. Tip cart, 3. Coppice barrow, 4. Wheelbarrow, 5. Contractors van, 6. Shepherd’s Hut, 7. Cattle wagon, 8. Reynolds & Co container van, 9. Gypsy caravan, 10. Stevenson, 11. Sussex Wagon (photo: Tony White), 12. Horse-drawn cart

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